An Australian experience of modern racism : the nature, expression and measurement of racial prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes

  • Jenny Wheeler

Student thesis: Master's Thesis

Abstract

This thesis aimed to investigate the changing nature,expression and measurement of contemporary racist attitudes,discriminatory behaviours and racial stereotypes in an Australian context. The first principal aim of this thesis was to further establish the psychometric properties of the Symbolic Racism Extended Scale (Fraser & Islam,1997b). Study 1 revealed good psychometric properties for the Symbolic Racism Extended Scale as a measure of symbolic (modern) racist attitudes in Australian populations. The study also found support for incorporating modern racism items within a 'social issues' questionnaire format to reduce reactivity concerns associated with self-report measures. The second principal aim of this thesis (Studies 2 and 3) was to explore the nature,prevalence and potential sources of contemporary racist attitudes,and associated discriminatory behaviours,in an Australian context. Study 2 detected a sizeable proportion of modern racist attitudes in both the University and ACT Secondary College student samples. The nature of modern racist attitudes in the population samples maintained clear consistencies with key tenets of contemporary theories of racial prejudice. Overall the study provided further empirical evidence of the nature,tenets and potential socio-demographic sources of modern racist attitudes in Australian populations. Study 3 explored modern racists' discriminatory behaviours in conditions of low racial salience. In an employment-hiring task,high and low prejudiced participants (university undergraduates) revealed significantly different employment hiring preferences for an Aboriginal applicant. In providing Australian empirical evidence of modern racists' discriminatory behaviours,the study also discussed methodological implications for future Australian research investigating the discriminatory behaviours of modern racists. The third principal aim of this thesis was to provide further analysis of the measurement of contemporary racist attitudes,specifically to examine concerns pertaining to the measurement of racial attitudes through implicit techniques. Implicit free-response measurement of Australian racial stereotypes in Study 4 revealed that high and low prejudiced participants (as measured by the SR-E) were equally knowledgable of the cultural stereotypes of Aboriginals,Asians and immigrants. Cultural knowledge of the implicit stereotypes was found to be predominantly independent of prejudicial beliefs,lending support to concerns (Devine,1989; Devine & Elliot,1995) that implicit measures of racial prejudice may actually be measuring an individual's cultural knowledge of the primed racial group,rather than his or her prejudicial beliefs. The fourth principal aim of this thesis was to investigate the content of Australian racial stereotypes. Study 4 revealed the implicit content of the cultural stereotypes of Aborigines,Asians and immigrants to be predominantly negative in nature. In response to the predominantly negative content of the Aboriginal cultural stereotype,Study 5 investigated whether the recategorising of ingroup boundaries and disconfirming information,relating to Aboriginal Australians,observed in the recent Sydney Olympic Games would result in changes to the content of the cultural stereotype. The study found significant decreases and increases in the negative and positive traits respectively reported as being part of the cultural stereotype of Aborigines,two weeks following the Sydney Olympic Games. Together,the five studies contributed to empirical research on the changing nature,expression and measurement of contemporary racist attitudes,discriminatory behaviours and racial stereotypes in Australian populations. A number of theoretical and practical implications of the present findings for Australian prejudice research are addressed and discussed. Furthermore,a number of practical recommendations for future research are identified to further investigate the modern nature of racist attitudes in Australian populations.
Date of Award1 Jan 2001
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra

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